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The 12 Best Strategy Board Games to Play in 2024

The best strategy board games offer a fascinating blend of strategy, skill, and chance. These games require players to make strategic decisions that can affect the outcome of the game, while also engaging in tactics to outwit and outplay their opponents. With so many different strategy board games on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time.

TL;DR: The Best Strategy Board Games


Below, we take a look at some of the
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available today in the strategy category. We skipped over the super popular games everyone's heard of to dig deeper into the wealth of strategy games on offer. You'll find out what makes each game unique, and why it has earned a place on this list. Whether you're after a game to play with friends and family or looking to challenge yourself, these strategy board games will provide endless hours of entertainment, strategery, and intellectual stimulation. Let's get to it, shall we?

Revive

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 1-4
  • Play Time: 90-120 mins

Most post-apocalyptic games prefer to focus on irradiated wastelands and roving bands of mutant cannibals, so it’s refreshing to find one that tasks the players with rebuilding civilization instead. You’ll work your way through a campaign, using your unique tribal powers and re-learned technologies, as you strive to re-populate ancient cities. But this isn’t just a narrative game: a novel card-action system sees players constructing an ever-evolving strategic engine to race across the map to those all-important ancient sites. With great art, great theme and great strategy, this is a rare title that ticks a lot of taste boxes.

Earth

  • Age Range: 8+
  • Players: 1-5
  • Play Time: 45-90 mins

As the title implies, playing Earth allows you to create your own little slice of terra firma, replete with different terrains and plants which will grow and flourish under your strategic hand. It utilises the under-used following mechanism whereby each time a player takes an action, such as planting a new card or composting an existing one to gain resources and make space in their tableau, everyone else gets a weaker version of that action. That ensures the game play fast and smoothly, but the mind-boggling variety of different cards, scoring conditions, and intricate mechanical wrinkles between actions and card effects, give it a huge amount of depth and replay value.

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Distilled

  • Age Range: 13+
  • Players: 1-5
  • Play Time: 30 mins

Heavier strategy games tend to sacrifice theme for more challenging decisions. But with Distilled, you can have both, as you juggle resources, equipment and recipes in your quest to become a master distiller. This puts you in a typical conundrum of how much to invest in your growing enterprise and how much to put aside for points, but this game gives you an extra dimension to wrestle with, the option to age your spirits for bigger returns later - if you can afford the time and space to do so. This creates a spinning plates effect, as the impacts of your decisions cascade across your distiller for better or worse. And if you find all that strategizing is thirsty work, it offers the perfect excuse for an in- or after-game tipple.

Agricola

  • Age Range: 12+
  • Players: 1-4
  • Play Time: 90 mins

One of the oldest games on the list, there’s no denying the staying power of this fun simulation of pre-modern farming. Starting with just a farming couple on a crude smallholding, you need to use that meagre manpower to till the fields, raise livestock, upgrade your farmhouse and even expand your family for more farmhands. Key to the game’s appeal are the occupations and improvements card decks which ensure the strategic options in every game are different and stop the game getting stale. While offering plenty of strategic depth, it’s also very satisfying to watch your little farm grow and prosper as the game progresses.

Through the Ages: A New Story Of Civilization

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Play Time: 120+ mins

Civilization games are a long and storied genre of grand strategy board game, but it came as quite a surprise to find that its ultimate expression took away the board. Instead, Through the Ages sees you creating a tableau of buildings and wonders, military and technology as you strive to become the ultimate culture. Exploration and fighting are neatly abstracted away to card play and number crunching, leaving you to focus on managing your growing society inside a punishing framework of competing strategic choices. The reward is a real sense of development as the game progresses and you watch your civilization flower: so long as it’s not ground under the military bootheels of your opponents, of course.

Brass: Birmingham

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Play Time: 60-120 mins

While economic strategy games abound, Brass: Birmingham stands alone as managing to feel a bit like a simulation while still being tons of fun. Set during the British industrial revolution, you’ll be building industries and ensuring they’re supplied with raw materials via a growing network of canals. As demand grows, you can open up ports and mines to service it, trying to mix and match between supplying your own industries and also cornering the market in materials needed by your competitors. Then, mid-game, it’s all change as railways come on the scene, allowing you to grow a new, more efficient network in a race to rack up profits before the game ends. Quirky, deep and unforgiving both this and it’s sibling
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keep pulling in the profits themselves.

Oath: Chronicles of Empire & Exile

  • Age Range: 10+
  • Players: 1-6
  • Play Time: 1-2 hrs

Oath is a very peculiar beast, a game that’s clearly about how power changes hands down the march of history, but it's set in a fantasy kingdom with heavy abstract elements. Yet when you dig into it, you’ll find that despite the surface trappings of a conquest game there’s a rich vein of strategy to mine as well. You can win by taking over Oath’s geometric landmasses, but also by securing the backing of the populace or by more nefarious means, all handled by the game's odd yet slick combination of card, action and economic management, looking for combinations to exploit. Whoever wins gains not only the victory, but a space in the annals of history as their win sets up the starting conditions for the next game in an ever-growing chronicle of play history.

Food Chain Magnate

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 2-5
  • Play Time: 2-4 hrs

A lot of games on this list are fairly complex, but Food Chain Magnate is relatively simple to learn. Its all about hiring and training employees to staff your expanding '50s diner chain and placing outlets for customer convenience. But don't let that fool you into thinking this is a light or simple game. With all players operating in the same market space to fulfil limited demand, this is a richly strategic experience in which inexperienced players can beggar themselves with staggering ease. The cream atop the cherry pie is the tasty helping of capitalist satire plain to see beneath the game mechanics.

Gaia Project

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 1-5
  • Play Time: 1-2 hrs

This is a sci-fi makeover of an older strategy game called
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. But alongside the reskin, the designers also made it tighter and deeper. The goal is to help your alien race expand through the galaxy by gaining resources and using them to terraform planets from their starting state to one that best suits your species. While struggling to eke out your stellar niche in the teeth of competition from your opponents, you've also got to build and upgrade structures to power your economy and develop a technology tree. But what really gives the game its edge are the fourteen aliens, each with a game breaking special power, which all demand unique strategic approaches to the game that vary with player count and the other powers in play. It's a veritable interstellar smorgasbord of strategy.

Ark Nova

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 1-4
  • Play Time: 90-150 mins

2016’s
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won a lot of plaudits for its well-woven mix of card play, economic engine and spatial strategy. Ark Nova has a similarly smooth blend of different mechanics but it ups the ante across the board while swapping the sci-fi theme for the wide appeal of building your own zoo. You’ll need to manage the various animal enclosures alongside other attractions and kiosks on your player board, positioning them to maximize your income. Then it’s down to a clever action selection mechanism to try and get the best animals into your zoo while advancing your reputation as a conservation project in the hope of attracting even more visitors.

Pax Pamir

  • Age Range: 14+
  • Players: 1-5
  • Play Time: 45-150 mins

Like Oath, you might mistake Pax Pamir, based as it is on the colonial conflict between Britain, Russia, and Afghanistan in the 19th century, for a wargame. But in reality fighting is only one of a palette of aspects you’ll need to master to emerge victorious. Representing Afghan warlords, players must manage an extremely tight economy of cards, actions and coins as you curry favor with with one of the colonial powers for personal profit. Of course, other players may also be vying for the same patronage, meaning you must constantly reevaluate whether to cut your losses and go for a different master. In addition to the military, political and economic aspects there’s also a fascinating espionage element with spies that move around played cards just as pastel army army blocks move around the evocative cloth board.

Settlers of Catan (1996)

  • Age Range: 10+
  • Players: 3-4
  • Play Time: 60 - 120 mins

A modern classic, now known simply as Catan, this game has fallen a little out of favor. But we shouldn't forget what a revolution it was in its time. Its mix of clever dice mechanics, trading and route planning as players compete to colonize an island strategically. In its native Germany, games like this weren't quite so novel, but its import in English kickstarted the whole modern gaming scene. It's worth playing for its historical value alone. That being said, just because it is one of the
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doesn't mean it isn't still fun. It's surprising how addictive its sweet blend of luck and strategy can be.


If you love board games and saving some dough, here are the
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.


If you're looking for something a little less strategic but still mature, check out our picks for the
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. And if you have kids you don't want looking at screens all day, check out our lists of the
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and the
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as well.


Matt Thrower is a contributing freelance board game and video game writer for IGN. (Board, video, all sorts of games!)

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